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London office of US law firm seeks newly qualified solicitor… to work as a paralegal

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Warning signs for NQ job prospects?

A US law firm is recruiting for a paralegal to work in its City of London office — but there’s a catch. The “ideal candidate” will be a newly qualified (NQ) solicitor, despite paralegals not requiring formal legal qualifications.

Legal recruiters Ryder Reid placed the ad earlier this week on behalf of the unidentified Yanks.

It says that “the successful candidate will be joining the firm as a contract paralegal within their award winning funds group. The ideal candidate will ideally be an NQ who has completed a finance seat, or an experienced finance/funds paralegal”.

A tipster who flagged the ad with Legal Cheek called it “obviously absurd, but also perhaps a reflection of the increasingly competitive job market”.

The pandemic has hit some practice areas hard and trainee lawyers were understandably worried about their career prospects even during the first lockdown.

The 2021 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

The worry is that firms become so saturated with applicants that some fully qualified lawyers will be unable to find work as solicitors and take unqualified paralegal roles instead. That, in turn, would squeeze out the non-solicitors with some legal training who would normally snap up paralegal jobs.

So is this a straw in the wind? Well, retention rates for trainee solicitors have held up well so far. Just this week, three City firms announced that they would be keeping on 17 out of 18 trainees between them, while Clifford Chance and Herbert Smith Freehills have both posted retention scores of around 90%.

It could be that US-headquartered firms are just swimming in so much dough that they can afford to pay NQ money for paralegal work. Our Firms Most List shows a plethora of top US players dish out upwards of £130k at NQ level, while partners can pull in excess of £3 million each.

But wannabe lawyers will be watching nervously for any signs that legal recruitment is drying up.

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121 Comments

Non-retained NQ (London)

I trained at a London firm but haven’t been kept on (no positions in my departments). I’m finding it really tough out there… Are paralegals at US firms on good money?

Franck

Is this a magic circle firm? Silver circle firm?

You don’t have to spill the beans and name and shame the firm but give us a hint.

It will be helpful to know which firms are being shady or omitting to give the full picture about retention rates

Non-retained

It’s not magic or silver circle. A large City law firm which takes around 40 trainees a year.

Brad

DLA?

Logan

Probably BCLP/Dentons

You’re on to something

This would actually kinda make sense considering they have been secretive about their retention rate

InsideOut

Dentons retained roughly 33/34 in Sep 2020. Although some of those were put into strange roles like contract specialist, sent on secondment, or recruited into other offices – Abu Dhabi, Oman, Edinburgh etc.

That makes roughly 8-10 trainees not retained.

Bored

We are in the middle of a global pandemic and the economy has been on the verge of collapse for almost a year. If I were a trainee solicitor coming up to qualification and a firm offers me a role as a contract specialist for 1 year as an alternative to being let go, I would take it and thank the firm greatly for not making me jobless in the middle of a pandemic to sit at home and watch netflix. Like seriously, how is it a bad thing? Quit moaning and cling to any lifeline you can. It is carnage out here.

Over the hill

What are you talking about? It seems you just want gossip on this individuals situation. You don’t know there was anything untoward in the process regarding the OP so stop fishing. I just really dislike people like you who dress up the desire for gossip with some sort of benevolent nonsense.

OP keep your head up. I’m of the generation that went through this looking for TCs and NQ jobs in the fallout of the GFC (so 2008-2014). My advice to you is that if a paralegal job comes up in a decent City firm, take it. Don’t ask up front if it is conditional on turning into an NQ job, that will be obvious and doesn’t need to be said. But you can have that conversation after your probation period if they like you. Whilst a paralegal though you could look for jobs as too long as a paralegal could be fatal to your career if there is no carrot down the road at the firm. Alternatively if you are young and no kids, be prepared to move anywhere in the UK for an NQ job in private practice, you will be in high demand in London in 3-4 years when things pick back up depending on the area you go into. Some choices will kill your city career though such as going into a high street firm. Alternatively you could take an inhouse job, which is what i did, you will have to really take responsibility for keeping your legal skills sharp, and I was lucky as I worked with a senior ex- City lawyer one-to-one who treated me like a trainee/NQ/junior and really tried to develop me as best she could. The experience was more useful than all of my seats during my TC. It is possible though that if you go inhouse so soon, you could end up there forever as it isn’t so easy to get back in. Depends on whether you are concerned with prestige and working for top City firms or if you are prepared to be flexible and develop a career no matter what happens.

Just don’t panic and see this as a 3-4 year career recovery plan so plan long term.

Jamie

No one is gonna read all of that but I hope you got your anger out hun x

Joe

Ikr get that boomer out of here

Anonymous

This is actually a very stupid rant you’ve had.

The person wasn’t fishing for gossip, the legal market is tough right now and firms aren’t exactly being entirely honest about retention.

Stealth layoffs are happening more than you realise.

If firms and news sites aren’t offering transparency clearly we need to speak to those who haven’t been retained.

I think a legal ‘gossip’ site is exactly what we need to tell the actual goings on at these law firms. Grad rec and the marketing and branding teams love to paint a pretty picture but that’s not always the truth.

Get a grip and stop taking everything personally.

Over the hill

Interestingly within 30 minutes of my comment I was spammed to 22 dislikes. That number hasn’t changed and I’m now at 31 likes. Wonder why the number of dislikes didn’t steadily increase during the day, strange that…………. Lets see when the next spamming comes in Anonymous or Jamie to push me to 80 dislikes. I reckon post work catch this early evening.

Says it all really

What a sad little life you have that you’ve monitored the likes of a legal cheek comment post all day.

Throughout the day you came back several times to spread out you spam liking your own comment so no one would realise. Everyone knows exactly what you’re doing, the jig is up.

Get a grip and life whilst you’re at it.

Hannah W

Interestingly that response Jamie comment was also spam disliked when I first came on the page this afternoon.

Look at the pot calling the kettle black.

Anon

Thanks for your replies. There are some immature children on this site. We shouldn’t let them put off actual qualified lawyers who know what they’re talking about.

MC trainee

Why didn’t you get offered an NQ position?

Genuinely asking, I’m 6 months away from qualification and very scared about the retention. I think I was a bit naive going into the whole process.

It’s only at this stage in the TC you realise all your fellow trainees are like that kid at school who would pretend not to do any homework and be getting straight A*s. Everyone is secretly trying to get ahead and get NQ offers…

GG

I had this experience too.

It was only when the talk of retention and qualification came up that some sly trainees revealed they already got NQ offers from multiple firms.

It feels like being in 2nd and 3rd year Uni again when everyone is trying to secure vac schemes and TCs. Hunger games central

Curious

Genuinely curious – how is that sly? Did they do it in an underhand way? Sounds to me like they knew it might be a tough market and did as much as they could to secure an NQ position.

@Curious

Wait until you start the TC. You won’t realise just how sly your colleagues can get if the right opportunity comes along.

Doing it virtually sort of gives you a barrier but in the office it’s a lot more obvious when your colleagues do things in an underhand way

GG

Yes, it was done in an underhand way.

They lied the entire time about not having any luck with NQ offers with external firms. Our NQ cohort have a WhatsApp group and were asking each other if they knew of any NQ positions elsewhere and they all denied it when a handful of them were using legal recruiters and didn’t want to share info about other NQ offers at other firms.

It was only during the qualification/retention discussion that they conveniently decided to bring it up.

You see, when you have multiple NQ offers and other firms want you, it gives your own firm incentive to offer you an NQ position in the department of your choice because it looks like you have options and obviously the firms want to hire the best.

The issue I have is they lied the entire time and were pretending they didn’t have a clue about which department they wanted to qualify and whether they wanted to stay internally or start as an NQ at another firm etc when they had the whole thing planned out all along.

Andrew

The training contract is basically like in school when people would lie they hadn’t done the homework or revised but they’re behind the scenes studying the hardest.

Long and short don’t let your fellow trainees get in your head and lead you astray…

Jay

How do trainees even secure multiple NQ offers elsewhere??

Turbophucker

Lmao they don’t. Lay off the ganja you moron

Ellis

Get in with legal recruiters right at the start of your TC. It’s never too early to be looking for external opportunities

David

Fellow trainees will push or support certain narratives in conversations that goes directly against what they’re actually doing in their own lives.

They will lie about being behind or struggling during in their seat when they are actually thriving.

They pretend they don’t get on with anyone in the office/department they are in when it isn’t true. They say their supervisor is horrible when again that isn’t true. They don’t want you to know that their supervisors and principals are rooting for them and being really supportive and will put in a good word for them when it comes to discussions around who is being retained on qualification.

Fellow trainees will try and lead you astray. I will give you an example. I was very adamant that I wanted to qualify in X department, and the fellow trainees knew about that because we all spoke during lunches and around the office here and there etc. This one fellow trainee was doing the same seat as me in that X department at the same time but we were in different offices In the floor. I got lucky because I happened to be sharing the office with the head of the department and most senior partner, whereas my fellow trainee was not. He kept coming into our office at random times during the day under the guise of having a conversation with me just so he could make he look bad in front of the partner with certain comments and show himself off. He also tricked me one time and tried to distract me by asking me to collect a bundle from the downstairs printing room whilst he was in my office and arranged a ‘lunch’ with the partner in my office behind my back. He has another partner in his office but was never interested in wooing him because at law firms you have to make networks with the ‘right’ people if you know what I mean. Anyways he said he was never interested in qualifying in the department we were in whereas he knew all along that I was, and then when it came to qualification – guess who got that one spot in the department… he did.

I have many many more stories and I’m sure if you speak to trainees or associates, they will also have similar stories about the competitiveness during the TC. People just don’t openly talk about it for some reason.

Harry

I always suspected it was like this amongst trainees but never heard stories from the horses mouth.

The insider gossip amongst trainees must be so interesting lol

You’ll go far

That fellow trainee of yours sounds like a proper turbokhunt. He’d fit right in at Freshfields or Jones Day.

@ you’ll go far

Trainees at Freshfields are the worst for toxic trainee culture and competitiveness.

Firms with the ‘scoring’ sheet for the TC end up having trainees fight tooth and nail to end up with lenient supervisors who score them highly.

Imagine your entire qualification and retention prospects coming down to a points based system. It’s ridiculous.

An 8 seat rotation is bound to be chaotic and competitive

@David

Don’t hate the player. Nothing stopped you from putting in more effort with that partner. Also nothing to say he isn’t allowed to try and get face time with one of the senior partners. Sounds like he just put in more effort than you to secure the department.

The print room stuff is shady but funny. Being coy about the seats you like is also standard.

@ anon above

Who said I didn’t put in more effort?

I put in so much more effort which is why it’s so frustrating.

I also outperformed on most of the tasks.

Sometimes the best candidate isn’t the one who gets the job and it sucks. From start time finish the entire TC was a game. Still, I wouldn’t throw anyone under the bus to get that NQ spot. Maybe I was too nice and should’ve played the same games back, but that’s not like me to do that.

Archibald Pomp O'City

“when it came to qualification – guess who got that one spot in the department… he did”

You were too busy running errands to collect glass hammers hahahaha

Long in the tooth

I’ve been a supervisor for a number of years now and watching what goes on makes me cringe at times. Unfortunately it is a competitive process and that can bring out the worst in people. There is no shame in working hard, wanting a particular seat or in wanting to go the extra mile to secure a job. That’s what you’re all there for and sadly not everyone will get what they want. In the long term though, ending up in finance instead of corporate or whatever might make no difference to your promotion prospects or day to day satisfaction so keep that side of things in perspective. There is also no need to be underhanded about it or to deliberately step on others’ toes. Just say “yeah cool I’m interested in that seat too!” Speaking for me and my team, all that really counts is quality of work and attitude. No one wants a backstabbing associate for a colleague long term. Everyone just wants strong candidates who can be trusted to do their bit.

Barrister

Yeah, that’s literally the reason I never seriously looked into vac schemes. It seemed like such a rat race.

Curious catherine

Why didn’t your firm retain you?

Was it due to bad performance or some other reason?

FlourPour

They won’t be far off mid-tier trainee salaries.

If you want to stay working in the law and don’t want to downgrade to being an NQ at a much smaller firm then you could do much worse than working as a paralegal for a year or two until the market picks up.

It’s certainly better than doing something entirely irrelevant (or nothing!) for a year and interviewers will be sympathetic. Just make sure you do something useful in the evenings to show you’re making good use of your time and are still driven. Paralegals work much better hours and it would be easy to fall back into the routine of having a social life and extracurricular aspirations.

2nd year trainee

“Paralegals have a life, don’t get used to it…” :/

Anon

This doesn’t look good but equally, I’ve heard of some paralegals doing NQ-level work…

Tony Soprano

This isn’t at all surprising.

If you have a little stalk on LinkedIn and search paralegals at US firms they tend to be qualified lawyers or senior paralegals who have worked at the firm as a paralegal for many years.

I wonder if it’s because they haven’t been able to get a TC after years of application cycles or they are just content with being a paralegal?

3PQE

I think trainees forget the TC process is a two-year long job interview. You may be colleagues, however you’re still up against them until you secure an NQ role.

Future trainee 2021

Any advice on how to approach qualification? How to make yourself stand out during the TC?

Jones

3PQE is probably a first year LLB student.

This site isn’t used amongst actual lawyers.

When you start your TC (hopefully back in the office by then) you will see on the office screens the actual sites and news pages your fellow colleagues use in between work. I guarantee it’s not Legal Cheek.

If you want a real answer to that question, you’d be better off speaking to the seniors at your firm.

Best of luck with the TC!

An actual 3PQE

Actually we do use Legal Cheek, the drama/gossip doesn’t stop post-qualification

Calling Dr Jones

“This site isn’t used amongst actual lawyers”

So you’re an LLB student?

NQ

@Jones – you have no idea what you’re talking about.

If you aren’t an ‘actual lawyer’, why do you feel qualified to give ‘guarantees’ about any aspect of what we do at work (including use of gossip sites)?

If you are an ‘actual lawyer’, why are you on Legal Cheek with all these supposed LLB students?

haha

hahahaha! good one mate… “3PQE is is probably a first year LLB student” – what?? have you any idea whatsoever of the actual legal practice and what are expectations at 3PQE? Actually, don’t answer that, it’s clear that you have absolutely no idea what you’re on about…

Person

My one piece of advice would be that at many firms, it will all depend on the partners’ decisions, so you need them to know who you are and see that you have done some good work. If you have an associate as a supervisor and you want to qualify into that department, you should make sure you get some exposure to the partners. Either that, or make sure your associate supervisor will stick up for you.

If you’re at a firm that claims the whole process is very informal, be very wary. I would recommend putting feelers out for other firms as you approach your firm’s decision, rather than waiting until you hear back from your firm.

Anon

Can only speak for my firm but be authentic. Don’t try and schmooze if it isn’t you or you’ll get found out. Partners / Associates do not have time to notice little power ploys.

You have to drive your career – if you think you might want to qualify in a team, you need to say so. For September qualifiers you need to really have registered an interest now, or ASAP if it’s your final seat. Don’t tell every team that you love them because Partners & Associates speak yo each other. Show an interest – why do you want to qualify there? Ask for info on clients / developments and schedule in a coffee. If catch ups aren’t happening, make them happen. Don’t assume that just because you have good banter your hours won’t be looked at. Don’t come in at 9, leave at 5 and leave the team in the lurch – show everyone you’re interested in the subject matter, ask throughout your seat about qualification and find out what makes the hiring / sponsoring partner tick (look at the cv they submit for pitches) – don’t copy it but if they repeat key words you will know what they value. Find out who the partner’s gatekeeper / decision influencer(s) are – is it a particular SA who is their ‘prodigy’)? Make sure they rate you & will root for you! Much easier if you have an influential advocate. And remember, teams change but the work doesn’t – so don’t apply just because the people are nice (but obviously avoid a toxic team).

Wend

I don’t understand why the job title is ‘paralegal’ and not ‘solicitor’ or some other such title.

The work the paralegal will do is likely to be near identical to NQ work. Salary may be lower than NQ. So they could create other job titles to differentiate the difference in salary.

I’ve seen some law firms advertise ‘contract lawyer’ roles – presumably similar to this paralegal role.

Archibald Pomp O'City

“The work the paralegal will do is likely to be near identical to NQ work.”

Spoken by somebody with true cluelessness.

“presumably similar to this paralegal role”

More cluelessnessnessness.

Wtf

What? Do you even have any understanding of how the legal industry works?

Your point about paralegals is nonsensical. It’s somewhat unfortunate they sometimes do NQ-level work, but ultimately they’re not qualified lawyers (with some exceptions) so you can’t call them solicitors…. because the associates are solicitors.

Contract lawyers are nothing to do with this. They are just lawyers who’ve left firms and work on a self-employed basis (akin to locum doctors, for instance) for firms or in-house legal departments as and when extra capacity is needed.

Wend

Yes. I’m totally clueless. I have only been a paralegal in a city firm , followed by TC and am now a junior associate. Totally clueless.

You seem to have taken offence. I didn’t intend any offence. I was only stating that often paralegals do work similar to an NQ or trainee. Not unusually NQ and paralegal will work together on exactly the same task.

If this role is advertised as a paralegal role, but requires qualification, and the salary may well be above typical paralegal salary, then why not create some other job title (like “contract lawyer”). You will see many boutique law firms do this.

Wend

I should add, the fact that this firm is looking for a paralegal with qualification suggests the paralegal will be more than just photocopying documents.

Anonymous

Massive over supply, dumbing down of degrees and easier professional qualifications. This is where it goes..

Thomas R

Nail on the head, anon.

Archibald Pomp O'City

Sadly this is a serious problem. Not the only or even the biggest factor but a big issue and one that will indeed result in more needlessly unemployed wannabees who would have been engaged in more productive activities than chasing down jobs for which they are underpowered.

Up 2 It

Or they can move to the North.

calm

Holy sh!t 24 comments in less than 2 hours… This got people triggered!!

That's Just The Way It Is

Mainly from those holding meh degrees from meh universities who realised suddenly that they were going to have to do a lot of copying and bundling for sod all moolah.

William E Fitzgerald

Oxbridge trainees at my firm tend to be the worst in my opinion. They are incredibly articulate but too book smart in most cases.

My friends in investment banking have also had similar experiences with oxbridge grads – they can talk the talk but can’t walk the walk if you know what I mean

Anon

That is what people who didn’t get into Oxbridge say to each other.

Anonymous

I’m an international student.

I did undergrad at Harvard and a Masters at the London School of Economics… I really doubt that not having Oxford or Cambridge on my resume is going to bring me down in any way.

When applying for Masters programmes in Europe, I did apply and get accepted into both Oxford and Cambridge, I full a full free ride scholarship with LSE and despite the funding, they were my first choice.

spell check

got a full free ride*

STALLONE

Cool story brah, blew my mind.

Sebastian

Interestingly, when you look into the alumni at private schools like Eton, Harrow and other top independent schools, the majority of the students end up in the top London universities, a US Ivy League university or a Russel group. There are of course a fair share who end up at Oxbridge but most of them divest into other top unis.

Oxbridge really is not the be all end all.

@ Sebastian

It’s true.

A lot of students who go to Oxbridge hope the name of the university carries them into jobs and opportunities for the rest of their lives.

That’s why a lot of the students who apply there need it more than anything.

Daniel

I was watching that Educating Harrow show and you’re right. I looked them up on LinkedIn and most of them went to top Russel group unis instead of Oxford or Cambridge.

When you come from a privileged background it doesn’t really matter what university you go to because you can secure internships and vacation schemes in the industry you like and get into your dream career regardless of where you went to university. Also helps that your parents have connections.

People who go to either Oxford or Cambridge want/need the name on their CV more than anything else.

A state school Bristol grad not Oxbridge

The reason these students go to Redbrick Unis and not Oxbridge is because they are not smart enough to get in. Quite simple really. £40k a year education can get you AAA to get into Bristol to study classics or Edinburgh to study history of art but it can only do so much when interviewing for Oxbridge.

Mega Lol at the fact posh rich kids not getting into Oxbridge and swanning off to UCLA or Brown for mummy and daddy to pay £80k a year for their university education is somehow indicative that Oxbridge students aren’t any good.

Anon

How is book smart a bad thing for a fresh graduate? All their learning will have been academic. Fair criticism if you’re comparing to mature trainees or career changers with actual commercial or life experience, but for anyone straight out of academia the choice is book smart, or book dumb.

Truth serum

You just described all private School Educated grads

Raymond

Clearly trainees/NQs have a lot to say about the qualification and retention process but no one and nowhere to say it to

MC trainee

This must be Clearyi reckon

tolatoy

Nah brah, this has Simpson Thacher written all over it. Could also be that boiler room Willkie Farr, both shops are gulags

Bob

I’m actually a Senior Paralegal at a US law firm so thought I might weigh in here. The salaries are very good and are actually higher than the Trainee salaries (for Senior Paralegals anyway). However, you will be expected to work the same hours as Trainees where required and a bulk of the salary is in the form of overtime. No overtime, just standard salary I am afraid, which is generous anyway. I wouldn’t say that the work done by Paralegals is not the same as NQs, the work streams are very different with NQs spending a lot more time drafting documents and managing transactions and Paralegals spending more time coordinating VDR exercises and assisting with signings, with the occasional drafting. It is a great career for myself as I was unable to get a TC but I still get to work on some fantastic deals. I am now in the position that if I got a TC I would have to take a significant pay drop.

Jonathan

Do you think that once you become a paralegal you get comfortable with that title and don’t try as hard with the TC/vac scheme applications?

When you don’t have a TC but you’re also unemployed you have that hunger and passion and desire to secure a TC. But when you’re in a comfy US paralegal role it seems nice and cushy for a while but then all of a sudden years have passed and now you’re reaching your late 20s and the people you graduated with have qualified and got several years PQE under their belt.

Random passer-by

What are career options as a senior paralegal? Genuine question as I would guess you wouldn’t want to be one forever. Will you try to qualify via Ilex or SQE now, and stay at your shop? Or try to go into compliance in a fund or something? I’ve never seen paralegal as a career one wants to do for all their career.

Bob

Yeah I understand that most people wouldn’t want to be a career paralegal, I am actually enjoying it as I don’t have targets, the salary is very good but there is limited career progression now. Jonathan raises a very good point, once I established myself at the firm it became very easy to get used to the pay, lifestyle etc. to the point where I no longer applied for TCs. Once SQE comes in to play I am seriously considering qualifying through this route as the SQE with a few years experience working in a US law firm should assist with getting a NQ position once the market picks up anyway. Failing that, picking up an in house role at a Fund, Investment Bank or some such would be a very good alternative career path once I am fed up of working in private practice!

Roflcopter

“Failing that, picking up an in house role at a Fund, Investment Bank or some such would be a very good alternative career path”

Lmao yea, best of luck with that Bob. I can see it already, all these top funds and bulge-bracket banks will definitely be scrambling to hire a career paraweasel 😀 😀 😀

Random passer-by

I don’t think Bob said anything about becoming General Counsel at a bank or fund. There are many compliance roles and corporate governance roles at funds/firms with people who are not lawyers but may have a legal qualification. Quick bit of research suggests that the salaries for these roles at a senior level are decent, and can push 6 figures with bonus included, which is more than partners in the regions or very small firms. I know people who couldn’t get tcs but had done the lpc who did this. I also doubt he/she is looking at KKR or Blackstone.

Really says a lot about you when you laugh at other people to make yourself feel better. Best of luck to you with life.

Roflcopter

U mad brah ? 😂😂😂

MC associate

The above thread is thoroughly depressing and I’m not sure entirely accurate. If your firm’s trainee cohorts are a competitive bloodbath then I feel for you, from what I’ve seen it’s very much a “may the best person get it” consensus. In any event, departments decide NQs as just that: a team. You make it known to the team you’re interested, associates will give their feedback in a round table type discussion, all appraisals are reviewed and the decisions are made.

In terms of the future trainee asking how to secure NQ positions: don’t be an arsehole (teams are looking for people they actually want to work with), bring some personality, be nice to the PAs, make an effort even in seats you don’t enjoy, stick your hand up for capacity requests, manage people’s expectations as to your capacity/deadlines, be proactive – don’t just do what you’re told, always think of the next step, be vocal as to qualification intentions with team, take your development seriously.

Tom

I think the bloodbath is heightened more than usual because of the fall in economy and jobs due the pandemic over the past year. Retention was lower last year and the people in the above thread are probably describing their TC experience in a dire legal market

Willard

The problem is… does the ‘best person’ always get it?

I doubt it.

Luck, privilege and brownosing seniors plays a huge part in it

Potnoodle

I think there is something fishy about these high retention rates. I know tonnes of NQs being let go from all over the place and nobody has managed to get so much as an interview, let alone a job. Recruiters are telling me there’s basically nothing out there. Yet somehow, all these firms are waxing lyrical about ~supporting junior staff~.

I don’t know, I’m currently feeling deeply cynical about the entire thing. There was zero transparency in my firm as to how nq seats were allocated or even how trainee seats were allocated. I also think sometimes it’s really unfair on NQs to be like ‘some are let go because they’re useless’ when often, if you get a bad run of seat choices you didn’t get a say in or teams that don’t make any use of trainees, you’re way behind everyone else. I had to spend 4 months in a seat where the partner explicitly said ‘I don’t work with trainees’ and the associates seemingly also had no work and were gone home at 6pm. I basically lost a major chunk of my training contract and was playing catch up forever after.

Now that I am an nq, it seems insane I basically have no skills and no expertise because everyone thinks NQs are useless and we change jobs every couple months so we never build up any useful knowledge in anything that you can even go work in a normal company. I honestly regret doing the TC at all.

Raymond

These are the kinds of stories we need to hear about.

There is so much to say about wasted potential. Trainees ending up in seats and departments and offices where they clearly will not learn anything or gain any real skills. Or where there is no work for trainees.

I’m really sorry that your TC experience wasn’t what you hoped but I hope you secure an NQ position and find an area you really like and are good at.

Law can offer a great career if you’re lucky enough to be put in those all important ‘seats’ and get in with the right people.

But the problem is so much of it comes down to… luck.

Not just lucky

Got to agree with you Raymond, my training contract was dire and it is really scary coming out of that and feeling ill-prepared to be an NQ.

Good luck Potnoodle – keep plugging away and make the best of the work that you are given and keep your eye out for real opportunities in which to develop.

I don’t ever regret going in-house – it was the best thing for me following such terrible training. I just had to jump in with both feet.

SC

Sorry to hear your firm left you in hot water

marshy

Sorry to hear that and can only sympathise with you. I’m also at a firm where everything is ‘informal’ which I agree is not beneficial for things like seats and qualification as I am now realising how there’s a lack of processes and accountability for anything. Like you, I also had 2 seats in teams I got placed in without a say, and got furloughed for 8 months. i fought for a TC extension but worry about the fact i feel like i know hardly anything.

The only role being offered at my firm is a split role between one team and then also doing essentially a paralegal function which I will have to battle out against my intake to get, despite it being far less than my ideal role.

At this point, I’d appreciate getting application rejections as at least that would mean something, I can’t even find things to apply for in the first place!

cold shower in -30 degrees

yup… story of, I’d say, 75% of trainees’ lives… My TC was nothing short of an utter sh*t show, where partners treated me as if I was a complete doormat with no actual right to ever say a thing or contribute to where I’d like to go next (seat wise). Towards the end, when it was just painfully clear that they have no plan, no organisation, no idea, and no interest in me, I lost my cool and started openly disagreeing with the ridiculous “plan” they had as my last seat (which was basically a repeat of my 1st seat, in an area they knew I have no interest in, nonetheless my first assessment was spik and span – no reason to repeat it). Should’ve seen their face.. probably the first time a trainee stood up for himself. Obviously, they didn’t keep me on, cause, I suppose, they thought I’ll be “trouble”, cause you know – people who stand up for themselves are a risk somehow… Either way, I had no intention of staying at that firm, it was a complete and utter waste of 2 years. As an NQ, I have the worst anxiety over not being experienced or prepared enough, everyone around me seem to know far more and it’s really not like I didn’t try my best to get that knowledge. Simply the firm I trained at was really cr*p at delegating to or working/developing trainees. It was all basically “do this however you want and take it to this person, they’ll check it” – no feedback ever, cause everyone’s too busy to have a sit down for 3 minutes and run through any issues. On top of that, I’ve not done a single seat in an area I wanted so now it’s even harder when applying for NQ positions as all require at least 1 seat in that area or something similar – I’ve got none. So I’m stuck with something I find boring as hell, don’t really understand it and makes me depressed.
Now with the market being as bad as it right now, it seriously makes me wonder – why on earth I picked this profession. There’s hardly any real support anywhere, it’s all just cutthroat and “be the best” (at buttering “the right people” up deep) or you’ll get the boot. No humanity, no compassion, nobody cares, regardless of the fact that you may be really talented but just need that tiny bit of hand holding at the very start and reassurance that you’re on the right path… Want to wish very good luck to us all, NQs and juniors, that are trying to float in this pool of utter diarrhea.

Wowza

Yikes…that sounds awful mate. 🙁 Care to give a hint which firm did you train with? Sounds dire!!!

Not just lucky

I trained at a top 50 UK firm and my training concluded in September 2020. Due to the pandemic my firm undertook a huge redundancy exercise, in which trainees in their final seats were not safe, due to this I was put in a pool for redundancy, my department was one of the worst hit with 50% up for redundancy.

Due to my obvious impending redundancy, I only applied for 2 in-house NQ positions, I was invited to both interviews. Following my first interview I was offered the job, which I accepted, and I turned down the second interview. I put in for voluntary redundancy at my firm and received an enhanced pay-out. Three weeks after leaving I started my new role and qualified. I love my job and the work is extremely varied, I wouldn’t get the exposure to the cases I now work on if I was still at my old firm, this is fantastic for my development.

Pay close attention to what the firm is doing, don’t be afraid to jump and seek opportunities elsewhere.

eat a lemon

right… you do realise that 97% of that success is because you trained in a top 50 firm, right? This is one of the things I find ridiculous about the legal profession – name is almost everything. Now, if you happen to train at a regional firm, or top 200 (mid-bottom end), nobody would give you the time of day and your “success story” would look a lot more realistic and in line with what most NQs are experiencing right now. Sure, it’s good to hear that you manage to strike lucky, but rest assured – you are an absolute exception, not the rule.

Anon

This is pretty common in arbitration, so many arbitration interns in London, Paris, and Geneva are qualified lawyers (usually not a first world country but sometimes you see Aussie’s or Kiwi’s doing such roles) and even practiced for several years. For some reason they then abandon all this to immigrate from X to Y and fix footnotes, work till 6 am, and (if they’re lucky) do some legal research. It’s a little sad but you can’t blame law firms for taking advantage of cheap (and overqualified) labour. The issue is when people delude themselves into thinking they will get a job at the end, they probably won’t and even if they do their progression prospects are minimal, or when law firms string the interns along.

I was there once

This is right on the money: international arbitration as a practice area is rife with pitifully remunerated (years ago WilmerHale offered me £400 a week for its “prestigious arbitration intern programme”, I told them where to go) interns who toil away in the hope that a permanent role available down the line. They’re often very well educated and qualified attorneys in the country of their origin. From own experience there’s a lot of South Americans lawyers involved in these internship programmes, from places like Argentina, Brazil or Chile.

All the major arbitration teams do this in London, with a few notorious shops like Quinn Emanuel, Three Crowns or VolterraFietta really taking it to next level with intern boiler rooms keeping the profits fat.

Realist

About half of Quinn Emanuel (QE)’s London interns become associates after six months, on a starting salary of £135,000 + hours-related bonus of USD $15,000 in their first year. Given that hiring decisions are so high risk for any employer, and as you note yourself the market is saturated with high quality candidates, I suggest that QE’s offer is more than reasonable.

PS If anyone doesn’t believe me, check out QE London associates’ profiles on LinkedIn.

Valentino

Your first sentence is a lie. Although the OP exaggerated slightly in that the firms are very clear about the lack of permanent opportunities, they do take on LLM students from UCL and KCL like hot cakes and squeeze them for 6-12 months on pathetic wages. But these guys are prepared to do it. London, Paris, Geneva, New York and Washington sweep up so much of the arbitration work in the west, that people from all over the world want that experience on their CVs. But these boutique firms are taking the p@** paying people 50-70% of what the big firms pay trainees. I expect the work they do must be crap too.

Anon

It depends, but in my experience a lot of the work is rubbish. Endless footnoting and cite checking, oh and as you are often the only native English speaker you have to proofread peoples memos as well. It’s sometimes pretty shocking the rubbish that some of the lawyers at these firms write due to their language skills… Needless to say I have always been sceptical of the arbitration bubble and am getting out.

Realist above sounds like either someone at QE who is desperate not to lose a source of cheap labour or an intern suffering from stockholm syndrome. It is true that some law firms do take on many interns, Freshfields in Paris, apparently QE, Lalive in Geneva and so on. However, most interns are not kept on and even when made associates their quality of work does not improve significantly. Frankly, in some firms it seems a divide is made between former interns cum associates and associates who trained elsewhere with the latter being treated better and given more actual legal work than the former.

Anon

It depends, but in my experience a lot of the work is not great. Endless footnoting and cite checking, oh and as you are often the only native English speaker you have to proofread peoples memos as well. It’s sometimes pretty shocking what some of the lawyers at these firms write due to their language skills… Needless to say I have always been sceptical of the arbitration bubble and am getting out.

Realist above sounds like either someone at said law firm who is desperate not to lose a source of cheap labour or an intern who is kidding themselves. It is true that some law firms do take on many interns. However, most interns are not kept on and even when made associates their quality of work does not improve significantly. Frankly, in some firms it seems a divide is made between former interns cum associates and associates who trained elsewhere with the latter being treated better and given more actual legal work than the former.

Wake Up

You seem to be implying that Quinn salaries are really good. They’re not. £135,000 sounds good until you realise that it is lower than what the top US firms pay and the hours-related bonus is a piss-take (you have to bill 2,400+ hours before the bonus gets anywhere near the bonuses paid by many other firms). All this while working for a group of borderline incompetent psychopaths who had migrated over from mid-tier firms.

Tolstoy

Haha, this is so accurate, ouch. Quinn’s London office is a horrorshow.

Archibald Pomp O'City

“practised”, please.

eat a lemon

“can’t blame law firms for taking advantage of cheap (and overqualified) labour” – Anon, are you serious or just pretending? The sad reality is that most equality and employment laws just don’t apply to law firms, which is the biggest paradox and irony ever. Yes, of course, there’s a lot wrong with running legal “sweatshops” and underpaying people! If it’s not good enough in other industries, why should we simply accept the status quo here? Being passive about issues like this is as bad as supporting that kind of behaviour!

Rumpole of the Bailey

Wilmer still offering the pitiful £400/£500 per week to milk their interns dry. But the supply is there…

Anonymous

Beggars can’t be choosers. If you are an unemployed NQ then the unfortunate reality is that there are very few solicitor roles on the market, so you may need to swallow your pride and take on a role that is below your expectations. The alternative is to sit around doing nothing for the next 6-12 months, which will only worsen your prospects to the extent that the only job you are going to be able to get is polishing my Lambo (if you know what I mean).

Anavar

Yawn. Back to your contract law Zoom lecture, son.

Anon

Back to packing boxes in JD Sports’ warehouse with you.

Ryan

This is the thread we didn’t ask for but we needed lol.

If firms aren’t going to be transparent then we should leak the info ourselves

anon

Meanwhile the NQ+1 market seems to be booming. So many banking/corporate roles floating around

Been there, down that

Zombie roles mate, recruiters often make these up to pump demand, then give unspecified reasons for why the position is no longer available.

It’s all smoke and mirrors and lies – 95% of what a recruiter says is often pure, desperate fabrication.

Jason Glover

I can guarantee you this is Simpson Thatcher….

anon

Jace, you’ve spelt ‘Thacher’ wrong so i suspect you aren’t who you say you are…

Observer

I really feel for these trainees that have had bad experiences. I worked as a paralegal at a public law legal aid firm, and it was sink or swim; you had to learn fast otherwise you’d fail. I was swamped with responsibility from the get-go and even represented the firm at the County Court (after asking for permission to be heard and it being granted) to submit submission re Legal aid costs. I’ve learned a huge amount at the legal aid firm and went into my current role at the big four with a huge amount of experience. Essentially, working at a legal aid firm where budgets are tight is what enabled me to shine and is the overall reason I was selected to qualify.

It may not be worth anything but my advice to a NQ with no offer is to look to a small firm; it will give you the skills you wouldn’t normally be exposed to.

Inquisitive

Just out of interest what compliance roles/commercial roles are out there for senior paralegals? Where did you search?

...if I HAD one!

Funds + award winning + Ryder Reid = Simpson Thacher

I’d bet my house on it…

Data

Just face it, those that enter the work market in a period of recession earn about 15% less over a lifetime and the income depressing effects do last much longer than a recession. On the other hand, entrepreneurs who start running businesses in a recession tend to do better than when the economy is doing well, and the opportunity costs of starting up are lower (these may be linked but the arguments are sketchy).

Mark

I was under the impression that this type of thing happened all the time particularly in High Street / Non Money Law / Legal Aid firms but because these firms are non money law the issues don’t get much publicity.

To give an example back when I was applying for Training Contracts the firm I applied to had interviews for their trainees and paralegals on the same day.

As I sat in the waiting room I got to talking to my fellow interviewees. All of those that had been selected for interview for the paralegal position were already qualified as foreign solicitors of varying years of PQE I think ranging from NQ to 5 years PQE in mostly EU jurisdictions.

I had a friend also apply for the same paralegal position and needless to say they were knocked out pre interview presumably because they were not a foreign qualified lawyer.

And no this wasn’t a position that required any knowledge of foreign jurisdiction

As to how my story ended Needless to say I was unsuccessful at getting the TC at the firm and never applied again

Mark

I was under the impression that this type of thing happened all the time particularly in High Street / Non Money Law / Legal Aid firms but because these firms are non money law the issues don’t get much publicity.

To give an example back when I was applying for Training Contracts the firm I applied to had interviews for their trainees and paralegals on the same day.

As I sat in the waiting room I got to talking to my fellow interviewees. All of those that had been selected for interview for the paralegal position were already qualified as foreign solicitors of varying years of PQE I think ranging from NQ to 5 years PQE in mostly EU jurisdictions.

I had a friend also apply for the same paralegal position and needless to say they were knocked out pre interview presumably because they were not a foreign qualified lawyer.

And no this wasn’t a position that required any knowledge of foreign jurisdiction

As to how my story ended Needless to say I was unsuccessful at getting the TC at the firm and never applied again

Had to post this multiple times because the mods don’t want it released for some reason

Who? What?

Omg please tell me this was a bad joke or the recruiter didn’t understand something… if this is true, then quite honestly it’s shameful beyong belief!!!! Juniors have already been majorly shafted by most firms big or small and now this?? Where the hell is this profession going to? Why isn’t the SRA pick8ng up on this and why don’t recruiters have a big more decency to advise these firms that their demands are above and over ridiculous? Taking absolute advantage of the poor juniors that have no other option! I’d very much like to kniw which firm this is. I’m sure under their “about us” section there will be a long essay on how they are “fair and responsibile employers ” that pay living wages and are crazy about employees mental health…. WHAT AN UTTER JOKE!!😡🤬

NQ

I would say that although things were fairly bleak in September and quite a few people took contract roles as an interim measure, it’s been clear in the last couple of weeks that NQ jobs are returning back to the market as firms prepare for the end of lockdown. Personally I’ve had several recent invites to interview where before opportunities were a lot more limited. Darkest just before the dawn etc.

UKlawyer

This is border legal and morally questionable. Just today got an email advert to my mailbox by global card issuer searching for “Paralegal Legal Affairs”. Closer look at the advert reveals they expect paralegal to I quote: “Providing sound, commercial, legal advice and support across all business units, including drafting, reviewing, analysing and negotiating a wide range of agreements and legal documents, including confidentiality, procurement, distribution, sponsorship, marketing, partnership, affiliate, referral, customer communications and terms and conditions, as well as other commercial contracts as required” and lower in the qualifications: “Junior UK-qualified solicitor (or hold an equivalent qualification from a common law jurisdiction, provided you have some experience advising on English law matters”.
Not cool. And for the record; working as paralegal when you are already qualified solicitor won’t get you the career kick you expect. Neither in large law firm nor in-house. Eventually you will need to find someone who trust in your qualifications. Someone who gets you cheap when you already qualified doesn’t trust or respect your qualifications.

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